SDS Womyn's Caucus Blog

I.N.A.Y. #1: “Effectively” Calling Out Patriarchy

Posted on: February 13, 2009

What is I.N.A.Y.? It’s an acronym for “It’s Not About You”, a heading under which I plan to do a series of blog posts here. (And I invite others to join me too!)

And now, I.N.A.Y. #1: “Effectively” Calling Out Patriarchy:

Something I am sick and tired of hearing from men who have been called out on patriarchal behavior by myself or another woman is that the way we did it “wasn’t the most effective way” we could have gone about it. Yesterday I had a dude send me an e-mail in which he said, “Perhaps you feel that the way you have interacted with me is just part of your attempt to make me aware of my biases. I would caution you that inflaming anger and defensiveness is not productive.”

Oh! Thank you Mr.Man! I had no idea that my “aggressiveness” that was clearly meant to inflame anger and defensiveness in you was not the most effective strategy for telling you about your oppressive behavior! Next time you act like a dick I’ll be sure to employ more agreeable tactics so you feel more comfortable.

This entitled reaction from dudes makes me think of a few things: One is, what is it they hear when we bring up issues of patriarchy and sexism with them? I am reminded of a comment made by author Marc Rudov on Fox News during the election : “When Barack Obama speaks, men hear, ‘Take off for the future.’ And when Hillary Clinton speaks, men hear, ‘Take out the garbage.'” It seems like no matter how nicely we try to bring things up, no matter how even our tone of voice or how pleasant the expression on our faces, when women break out of passive, silent gender roles and stick up for ourselves, many men hear yelling, “bitching” and nagging. No woman has ever told me she finds me aggressive, but apparently I come off that way to a lot of men.

Second, why is their first reaction not only to tell me that the way I approached them was wrong, but that they know how to do it better. Despite having no experience being on the other side of the interaction, they still know a better way to do it. Not only does the I’m-a-dude-so-I-know-how-to-do-things-best attitude piss me off, but the assumption that I had the luxury to carefully plan how I would call them out and that I am just not strategical baffles me. As an organizer, I know how to pick the best strategies and tactics for my audience when I am planning a campaign or action. That is because I can usually plan a campaign or action in a rational and thoughtful manner with plenty of time. This does not apply to my daily interactions. Not only do I usually have to choose if and how to call a man out on the fly, but I have never been given any guidance or instruction in how to do it. I am figuring it out as I go along. Considering the fact that everything in society has socialized women NOT to address these situations and talk openly about patriarchy makes my act of bringing the issue up at all an incredible feat in itself.

Another thing that bugs me is the ‘the way you did it hurt my feelings’ line. As if it is my responsibility to make sure men’s feelings are not hurt. Not just in our general interactions, but even when I am giving them criticism. Memo to men: sometimes hearing criticism will cause you to feel bad about yourself. That is not my problem. The implication that I should not give criticism because it makes you feel bad (or that the way I gave the criticism hurt your feelings) is outrageous. Especially because – hello? – why do you think I’m giving you criticism in the first place? Because I think it’s fucking fun? “Oh, I hurt your feelings? How do you think I felt 10 minutes ago when you did XYZ patriarchal things, which is the REASON I had to talk to you in the first place??”. Way to privilege your feelings over the woman’s. Telling women that the way we brought things up hurt your feelings or was “ineffective” is just another way women are silenced into not saying anything.

And finally, why the hell do men think they have a right to never have their feelings hurt in the first place? (Let’s not even get into how most of them don’t want to acknowledge or talk about their feelings until suddenly -gasp!- I hurt them!) I think I know the answer to this one: privilege. People with privilege are accustomed to being comfortable, and feel entitled to feel comfortable all the time. They become angry when something, or someone, disrupts that spell of comfort. It scares them, and they want to push it away and/or avoid it rather than allow the feelings of discomfort to sit or to work through them. (If they actually did the work to push through these feelings, they may find that the discomfort was actually productive and allowed them to grow.) They mistake feeling uncomfortable for feeling unsafe. And rather than blame the oppressive systems that have allowed them to feel so comfortable all their lives while women bared the brunt of patriarchal oppression, they blame the women who point out the behavior.

https://i2.wp.com/www.jackyfleming.co.uk/postcards/temper.gif
image by jacky fleming

This is why I am so fed up with hearing that I didn’t call someone out the way they think I have should have. Maybe if they focused their attention on not being patriarchal, instead of critiquing my technique, I wouldn’t have to call them out in the first place.

– Robin
Philly SDS

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7 Responses to "I.N.A.Y. #1: “Effectively” Calling Out Patriarchy"

When I read this, I laughed. I laughed out loud as a matter-of-fact. Why? Because the author makes many assumptions and statements that only show her contempt of the “male species”. I am not saying this as an attack on women, I am saying this as an attack on the author. Allow me to explain more in detail.

It seems that you are declared yourself Patriarchy Police. Congratulations on the assumption of such a position. With the weight of the world on your shoulders, it must be difficult to do much of anything else beyond fighting for the equality of all women. It seems, however, that in being a superhero, you’ve gotten a little drunk in your power. My critiques follow:

First and Second (since it is all in the same topic), you are angered because a person (dude, as you put it) tells you there might be a better way of approaching him. Isn’t the whole point of you “correcting him” so that he will change his behavior? Unless the exercise is just to state your opinion, but that doesn’t sound consistent with the role of Patriarchy Police. So, it must be that you are trying to exert some understanding so that one less person is patriarchal. So, from your statement (Second, why is their first reaction not only to tell me that the way I approached them was wrong, but that they know how to do it better?) It would follow logically that he would know better than anyone (yes, even including you) what method would be most effective in changing him or at least teaching him. So, for you to assume he is just being patriarchal (in the vein that men know and women don’t) is fallacy. It is just plain reality that you know more about yourself than anyone else. It has nothing to do with believing that men know more than women. This kind of argument reminds me of my sister. She argues that everything is Patriarchy, even when it is obviously not. I am so sorry that you feel the world is out to get you. That is called paranoia.

Your third point is that it angers you when men get their feelings hurt when you criticize them. That seems rather callous to me. The whole point of you trying to educate others on the evils of patriarchy is because it hurts your feelings. You claim that, “Oh, I hurt your feelings? How do you think I felt 10 minutes ago when you did XYZ patriarchal things, which is the REASON I had to talk to you in the first place??”. Way to privilege your feelings over the woman’s.” It actually seems that you are privelaging your feelings over others because you care to express your feelings when they are hurt but are unsympathetic to others when their feelings are hurt.

Another point you make is, Telling women that the way we brought things up hurt your feelings or was “ineffective” is just another way women are silenced into not saying anything.” That is laughable. Really? Do you really believe that? Honestly? That defense makes it alright for women to criticize men but impossible for men to criticize women. It is a blanket statement that is obviously ignorant. You are in effect creating a Matriarchy in which men are powerless to express themselves. Congratulations….you have become what you seek to destroy.

Again, you make a statement that was obviously hurried and written without much thought. Given your writing, you are an intelligent person, but this statement, “And finally, why the hell do men think they have a right to never have their feelings hurt in the first place?” really doesn’t make any sense. It is not a MALE quality to believe your feelings shouldn’t be hurt. It is a HUMAN quality. Isn’t that why we have laws, mores, and other social conventions? Politeness may be an archaic social convention, but it serves its purpose as a lubricant in the social sphere. Politeness and manners are there to ease social interaction.

You make the statement, “People with privilege are accustomed to being comfortable, and feel entitled to feel comfortable all the time. They become angry when something, or someone, disrupts that spell of comfort. It scares them, and they want to push it away and/or avoid it rather than allow the feelings of discomfort to sit or to work through them.” Forgive me, but I have two things to say. If you really are oppressed, then how do you know what people of privilege feel? Secondly, and truly a stronger argument, it is not just people of privilege, but people in general. I believe Maslow dealt with human needs better than most others, yes, even including you. We all seek basic things so that we can achieve higher things. We all are scared when our lives or comfort are changed. We are creatures of ritual and habit. It is not something of privilege or race or sex…..it is human.

Robin, I don’t know you, but it seems to me the more you try to make equality, you separate the sexes more. Try to focus on our similarities rather than our differences. That is what will bridge the gap. The more you separate us, the more each sex will “other” each other. Men are not all one way. Neither are women. Any generalization that is made is discrimination based on stereotype. I know you’re smarter than that.

Sincerely,

Jeremiah

Dear Jeremiah,

You said, “It would follow logically that [men] would know better than anyone what method would be most effective in changing him or at least teaching him.” The way that you have gone about framing this point is fundamentally incorrect. It is true that you probably do know best how you like for someone else to give you criticism. It is also likewise true that men probaby do have insights into how to best reach men about patriarchy that womyn don’t . HOWEVER, because we are talking about calling out patriarchy and oppression (as opposed to criticizing your sculpting technique or something) we must be very conscious of the issue of responsibility. So, while some womyn may choose to call men out in certain ways either out of courtesy or strategy, it is ultimately NOT the responsibility of women to present their criticism of partiarchy in a way that is tailored to fit the way men will receive it. It IS the responsibility of men to do their utmost to work on RECEIVEING womyn’s criticisms of our patriarchal behaviors as best we can in whatever way they present it to us. Womyn have been made to toil to meet the needs of men for much of recorded history. I think we (men) can make the effort to meet womyn where they’re at on this one. If anything, it is the responsibility of other men to step in when they see a man ‘not receiving’ criticism of his patriarchal behavior and to help him ‘receive’ it.

You said, “I am so sorry that you feel the world is out to get you. That is called paranoia.” This is classic invalidation of womyn’s perspectives. There isn’t need to explain how fucked up this is. Look up the origins of the word “hysterical.”

You said, “You are in effect creating a Matriarchy…. you have become what you seek to destroy.” Classic crap argument. This is the gender equivalent of “reverse racism.”

You said, “It is not a MALE quality to believe your feelings shouldn’t be hurt. It is a HUMAN quality.” While it is true that it is a human desire not to be hurt emotionally or otherwise, based on what i’ve read and heard from womyn (and I believe them), womyn in this society are hurt in millions of subtle and not-so-subtle ways on a regular and a constant basis as a result of their gender. So while we all WANT not to be hurt, it is likely that only men FEEL ENTITLED not to be hurt. Hence your blindspot. Also, what I just said is prettymuch identical to what Robin said (“People with privilege are accustomed to being comfortable, and feel entitled to feel comfortable all the time.”) but I thought i’d give it another shot to break it down for you.

You siad, “If you really are oppressed, then how do you know what people of privilege feel?” Answer: by how we behave.

You said, “Any generalization that is made is discrimination based on stereotype.” This just isn’t true. Men, in fact, are all similar in at least one respect: we’ve been raised and socialized as male in a patriarchal society and as such have what is called Male Privilege. Womyn, conversely, are categorically similar in that they’ve likely been oppressed as womyn all their lives. It isn’t necessary to site the innumerable statistics on this one. Do your own googling.

Love,
Crescenzo

pretty sure that comment isn’t worth reading…haha

great post Robin! more please!

I just reread this and realize how spot on it is, especially after seeing the comments that others have left on different posts on this blog!

robin! i was reading this and then i saw you had written it! i really liked it and was thinking about bookmarking it in case i need a snappy reply to, “you hurt my feelings!” i’m shocked that you get so many ridiculous comments on here. f everyone. xoxoxoxoox

[…] This is post #2 in a series called I.N.A.Y.: It’s Not About You. I.N.A.Y. #1: “Effectively” Calling Out Patriarchy can be found here. […]

thanks for posting this! i read it after followiing the INAY #2 & it really did resonate.

ESPECIALLY about how we’re not ever TAUGHT how to confront men about these issues. i can think of so many instances when i’ve had intense internal debates regarding my response to situations, to attitudes, to small comments.

& jeremiah as well, thanks for posting your response although i disagree with almost everything. i do agree that our mutual humanity should be respected, but i do not think articulating these frustrations & being honest with our co-organizers/the men we encounter daily is counterproductive to our collective goals of creating an oppression free society. as people who have a different relationship to power than men (which must be acknowledged, and i think you did a pretty patronizing job of skimming over this) we (womyn) [at least, inferring from this post…] are bringing these instances of patriarchy performed to your attention in ways that suit US. it is honestly not our job to dress up & play nice when ultimately the issue at hand is your actions/attitude/performance. effective communication is the result of horizontal, non-hierarchical, non-oppressive relationships. that can’t happen if patriarchy is still alive & well in our relationships & daily interactions with men.

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